‘I’m sorry, James, but I going to have to ask you to find somewhere else to stay. Vanessa’s moving in at the weekend and I’m afraid a ménage à trois is not what we had in mind.’
James cursed under his breath. Since Rachel had kicked him out of ‘her’ flat, he had been relying on the goodwill of his friends and the others in the band for a spare bed or a couch. However, given that many of these were shared friends, and in the case of the band, were reliant upon both Rachel and her new amour, Lionel, for their living, he received much sympathy but sparse assistance.
He could hardy criticise his old chum, Simon, as he had allowed him free rein of his tiny flat for the last few weeks. He had known of the possibility of Vanessa moving in but this was unexpectedly soon.
‘No problem, mate.’ He responded with the best smile he could muster. ‘Must scoot as I’ve got a full day ahead.’
‘Look, if you haven’t got fixed up by the end of the week and you need somewhere to stash a few things, that’ll be no problem.’
James, gave him a hug, picked up his violin case, and headed for the door.
He did have a full day ahead but it was a day full of hope rather than promise or certainty.
With the ending of his relationship with Rachel, losing her and the flat was bad enough. But it had also brought to an end his time with the band that he and Rachel had formed. However, he had also been told that he wasn’t needed at the small music shop they had run together. Not only was Lionel taking his place in Vanessa’s bed and their music ensemble but he was probably enjoying James’s share of the income the shop brought in. What made matters worse was that both the flat and the shop were officially owned by Rachel’s father. He was hoping that he could make some sort of a claim for the loss of his earnings from both the band and the shop.
He had little or no savings and with only a couple of gigs, covering for sick regulars in a small orchestra he knew, his income had plummeted.
First stop was the Citizens Advice Bureau. The nearest to Simon’s flat was in Peckham and a stiff walk was ahead of him. Arriving at 9.00 am, when it opened, he saw a queue outside. They had told him when he phoned that there were no appointments, it was a drop-in system, so he just had to queue. An hour went by, he still hadn’t been seen and was growing nervous. He had an audition at 12.00 for a place in the violin section of one the larger orchestras and the last things he wanted was to be late.
Finally, shortly after 10.00am he was seen by a tired looking middle-aged lady who informed him she was a solicitor with long experience of employment law. By 10.30 he was outside again feeling utterly dejected once more. It seemed that the positions he held in the band and shop were unofficial – with no contract of employment for either position, it seemed that he could claim for neither breach of contract or unfair dismissal (and heavens knows about the royalties from the record deal Rachel had signed). Either Rachel was completely incompetent or had been lying when she always said she had every sorted out. Having cash had been convenient but he now realised the implications.
He hopped onto a bus to take him up to town and sat pondering his options. He needed a regular source of income & quickly. Even if it meant a boring role in some third-rate orchestra. He could then get himself somewhere to live and set about the task of realising the goal he had always had – of making a success playing the music he loved. It had all seemed too perfect with Rachel. She had claimed to share his musical goals; she had seemed to be the perfect partner who could leave him to concentrate on the music he loved. Now she had shattered both dreams.
He realised he had a lot to learn about women and about life.
Stepping off at Piccadilly Circus, he made his way deep into the heart of Soho. He found the rehearsal rooms where he was due to audition in a tight little alley off Wardour Street. There was no queue of the hopefuls he expected and he gave his name to the girl on the reception desk.
A few minutes later, he was ushered into a modest sized rehearsal/recording studio where a bored looking elderly chap, seated at a piano, promptly played an A and instructed him to quickly tune up. James did so with what he thought was the right degree of professional flair. He then had a piece of sheet music placed upon the music stand in front of him but facing.
‘When I say so, turn this over and, at my cue commence playing at once!’ Bored one instructed him. ‘Ready? Now!’.
James saw that it was the first violin opening solo from the E Minor Mendelssohn. He knew the piece vaguely but it was a tough nut to sight read and play a piece such as this cold. He soldiered on reasonably competently, thinking that this was a bit much for just a rank and file job.
A brusque, ‘Thank you, we’ll let you know.’ Was all he got when he finished.
‘Well’, James thought, as he made his way back down Wardour Street, ‘I have no idea what to make of that!’His next appointment was at 2.00pm, plenty of time for a sandwich and coffee and then a stroll across to Covent Garden.
One of the first things he had done after Rachel defenestrated him was to look into the opportunities of earning a bit of cash busking. He’d taken a trip to Covent Garden and talked to a couple of the buskers there. He learned that busking is illegal in London but an exception is Covent Garden where it’s licenced. The classical performers get a prime spot, downstairs in the covered section, really helpful in pulling a crowd in (if you were good enough and lucky enough). He had applied and, following an audition, had been allowed to buy a licence and enter the weekly draw to obtain 4 x 30 minute slots. His first slot was this afternoon.
Arriving early, he sat and listened to a soprano singing a couple of well-known arias. The acoustics were spectacular and helped to project her voice naturally, but as if with the power of amplification. He decided to start with a couple of pieces that he felt really matched the acoustics best. James looked around and saw that she had drawn a large crowd who cheered and clapped when she finished.
Springing to his feet at once, James walked quickly over and joined in the clapping, before taking his out his violin and bow. A quick caress of the strings was all it took to confirm the instrument was still in tune. With a flourish, he bowed to the crowd.
He launched into the Fugue from Bach’s Sonata no 1, a fast and demanding, unaccompanied piece, full of soaring highs and technical flourishes. He could see, with pride, he had stopped much of the crowd, dead in their tracks. He quickly followed this with Purcell’s Prelude for solo violin a short but hauntingly, beautiful piece. He then launched into a transcription of a Bach cello suite, followed by a Vivaldi solo before ending with a Paganini caprice, which brought a roar from the crowd.
Looking up at the clock he could see that he still had 5 minutes to go and was just deciding what he could best finish with, when a fawn like girl with a violin case quickly moved up to his side and whispered in his ear
‘I’ve got the next slot, join me & do the Largo from Bach’s D minor together? You take the lead?’
Looking down, James could see a pile of notes and coins in his hat, with people still adding to it as they made to leave. He was hesitant to agree to play with a complete stranger but she looked up at him, pleading with large dark brown, soulful eyes. He made a snap decision and speaking in a loud and theatrical voice, announced –
‘Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you so much for being such a wonderful audience. We’re not finished yet and I’m now joined by a very special artiste. A quick tune up and we’ll play our favourite arrangement of Bach’s D Minor.’
A ripple of applause and laughter spread through the little crowd. Smiling, he put an arm around her slight frame and they bowed together.
James led into the beautiful melody of the first part and when she joined a few bars later with the second melody, he recognised a very skilled player. They played naturally together, their melodies weaving in and out, in a continual stream, like an endearing and oh so intimate conversation. As he looked across at her, she would look up and gaze into his eyes, like a star struck lover. It was almost as if they were making love. He knew that she was acting but found himself drawn completely into the act and gave it his all in return.
The response from the crowd was incredible; complete and mesmerised silence turned into tumultuous applause at the end.
She looked up into James’s eyes and whispered…
‘Stay with me… for the rest of my set? I think we can work well together.’
Note: Should you wish to leave the previous chapter in the life of James & Rachel, see ‘Harmony’ (of first post)
Image courtesy of: Taylor Violin Studio, Cleveland, OH